Fence damage charge against elder dismissed

Navajo Times, FEBRUARY 7, 2008

Kykotsmovi, Ariz. - Judge Delfred Leslie of the Hopi Tribal Court dismissed the criminal charge of damaging fences against Rena Babbitt Lane on Jan. 25, according to a news release from her lawyer, James Zion.

The grounds for dismissal were that when three Hopi Rangers went to her home on Nov. 4, 2006, they illegally entered the "curtilage" of the home without a search warrant.

Accordingly, the court was required to suppress the evidence, consisting of photographs of footprints and Lane's statements. There was no probable cause to support the criminal complaint without that evidence, so the court dismissed the complaint.

The opinion explained that the "curtilage" or "an area immediately adjacent to a home" is part of the home for purposes of illegal searches and seizures under the Indian Civil Rights Act.

In this particular case, the defendant argued that a Navajo curtilage includes a hogan, shade, corrals and the area around the home where the earth is bare.

The defendant moved the court to suppress evidence and dismiss on March 24, 2007. The prosecution and defense filed briefs and the court held oral argument on April 17, 2007.

The court also issued a May 11, 2007, notice that the Internal Affairs Division of the BIA's Office of Law Enforcement Services had requested a copy of the court file to conduct an investigation into the Nov. 4, 2006 incident. Lane has not been informed of the outcome of that investigation.

Zion expressed his appreciation for the courtesies extended to him and his client by the court and the prosecution.



Reprinted as an historical reference document under the Fair Use doctrine of international copyright law. http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.html